(The Intercept) Leo Varadkar, a gay lawmaker, was elected the leader of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party on Friday, making him the country’s prime minister-elect, set to take power after the Irish parliament reconvenes in 10 days.
Varadkar, a doctor who served as health minister, came out about his sexuality during a live radio interview in 2015. Born in 1979 to an Indian doctor from Mumbai and an Irish Catholic nurse from County Waterford, he will also become Ireland’s youngest-ever taoiseach — the Irish word for “leader” — and the first son of an immigrant to lead the nation.
— Brian Hutton (@magicbathtub) June 2, 2017
While Varadkar is a member of a center-right party, his election seems to confirm a rapid shift in Irish society away from social conservatism and narrowly defined nationalism.
Ireland is on course to have its first openly gay Prime Minister – Leo Varadkar pic.twitter.com/Xy706J4zLo
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) June 2, 2017
After he made his sexuality public, Varadkar campaigned in favor of a ballot initiative that legalized gay marriage the same year. When that referendum passed by an overwhelmingly majority, the final total — 62 percent in favor and 38 percent opposed — alerted the world that Ireland had changed dramatically.
Varadkar has been criticized, however, for not moving quickly enough to repeal Ireland’s ban on abortion, which was reinforced in 1983, when 67 percent of the country voted for the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s constitution, adding language that made “the right to life of the unborn” equal to the “right to life of the mother…”